Appropriate Technology for Humans and Organizations
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This paper introduces the idea of ‘Appropriate Technology’ and applies it to some of the choices organizations make when designing, implementing and managing information technology (IT). It questions whether companies make appropriate choices about the extent of technology, the allocation of system functions between humans and machines, the design of jobs and roles for humans, the design of supporting organizational structures, and the methods used during design and implementation. If inappropriate choices are made in these areas, problems of morale, motivation and system performance can occur. The objectives of the paper are to examine whether these ideas can help to identify and explain problems in the implementation of new technology, and to argue that social scientists have so far achieved relatively little in helping organizations to make more appropriate choices in these areas. The paper makes a number of propositions about new technology from a social science perspective, introduces what is meant by Appropriate Technology, uses manufacturing as an example of an environment within which new technologies are being implemented, and describes five key decision areas for managers. As a result, a new set of propositions is made, this time from the perspective of general management and engineering. The author draws on research and development experiences with a number of companies, and on work undertaken within the ESPRIT and Alvey programmes.
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